Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Reasons to be cheerful. 1, 2, 3...

I've mentioned a couple of times recently how I've been feeling down in the dumps, but actually I've been starting to feel better this last week or so, and thought I should say a little about what's changed.
At the point when I started to wonder if I needed pharmaceuticals to help me pick myself up, I decided that enough was enough and I needed to pull my socks up and do something to cheer myself up. It's easier said than done, but what I've done has started to make a difference.

The last thing I want to do is to belittle depression - clinical depression is a crippling illness which sucks people into a vicious cycle of depressive feelings and can metaphorically and literally steal people's lives. Recent figures suggest around 1 in 4 women will seek treatment for depression at some point and there are often serious treatments involved.

What I'm talking about is low mood. Being down in the dumps, miserable, fed up and sick and tired. I'm pretty sure we've all been there, but it is tricky to pull yourself out of it without help. I've had a bit of training in various therapies and so has Tom, so I was able to make a plan without too much trouble. Hopefully what I did might prove helpful to someone, but there are a lot of websites offering help of every sort if you need some and don't like what I have to say. Mind is one of the best UK sites I know and talks about all sorts of mental illnesses, symptoms and aids from the basic to the most serious clinical interventions.

So, in no particular order, here is my guide to being cheerful;

1. List the positives in your life
By focusing on what's good about your life you can start to change your thinking. We focus a lot on what's wrong which can make the bad seem bigger than it is - turn it around and focus on the good stuff instead.
When you're down, this can be a tricky exercise, so take your time, be honest, ask someone else to help, and add to it when you think of something else. Keep this list around so that you can be reminded of how much good there is in your life whenever things get too much.
I listed things like my husband, our cats, our home, my hobbies, friends and blogging. If it makes you happy, celebrate it!

2. List the 5 most important things in your life - how can you spend more time on them?
Sometimes we can get caught up in what we should be doing, or just in moping around without investing in the important things in our lives, things which can make us happy. I know I don't spend enough time interacting with my husband, so we've bought a scrabble board, some 2 player x-box games and are committing to at least 2 trips 'out' to new places each month.
I'm also trying to schedule at least 1 hour a week for sewing, even if I don't really feel like it. Even if I only mend a hem. Because actually, I know that when it's done I'll feel good about it and will probably go on to do more.

3. List some things you would like to do (and then make them happen)
Planning for the future is important, it keeps you focused on moving forwards and on to happier times. These don't have to be world changing, but even small things like painting a room, going on a trip or selling some junk on eBay can be fun and once you've done them, there comes the satisfaction of ticking them off.
Baby steps towards these goals can be powerful too; if you want an expensive holiday, open a savings account and pay all your loose change into it.

4. List the things that are making you unhappy - can you solve or reduce them?
This is both simple and the most complex thing you can do. Even small steps can be powerful though.
Work is really getting to me, so I'm committing to looking for a new job. It might take me ages to get it, but I am working towards solving this problem.
My health will be harder to tackle, but I'm working to make a difference to that too, starting with a book recommended by the occupational therapist I see for my CFS. It may make no difference at all, but it is a step in the right direction.

5. Learn something new
As above, really. Learning keeps you fresh, and focusing your brain on something that's not how crap your life is can be incredibly therapeutic. Ideally, I'd reccommend you go on a course - meet new people, laugh together and discover something new. Learning from a book or DVD can be just as absorbing though and possibly more satisfying.
I've booked onto a load of adult learning course between here and Christmas and will be trying out photography, life drawing, cyanotypes and corsetry. All new skills, all creative and all out of the house!

6. What else can you do to make yourself happy?
This is a more general collection of stuff that cheers you up. Taking a bath, meditation, getting fresh air and sunshine, exercise (if you're able), eating better (porridge and tomatoes are natural anti-depressants and anything fresh makes you feel better than processed food), taking supplements (omega oils help keep your brain happy), tidy the house, be more spiritual (if you're that way inclined), talk to someone about how you feel, find a positive affirmation that works for you. Each little action helps to lift your mood and there are hundreds of suggestions like this out there.

Just making this plan made me feel a bit more positive, and the few actions from it I've taken have turned around what felt like a long period of grey Tuesdays.

I also have to thank all of you for your kind encouraging comments - you really do cheer me up with your lovely words!

I'd love to hear what you all do to cheer yourselves up, do share!


  1. Thank you for writing about such a sensitive subject. I suffer from depression (the bad kind)and have done since a nervous breakdown several years ago. I have good days and bad days. Sewing has helped me hugely, I have learnt that I am capable and able to manage new goals. I agree goals are invaluble. Today was a tricky day I wanted to 'do' but struggled, So in very small steps, it has taken me all day to make what could normally be done in an hour. But I got there and now have a new blouse and matching tie/hair bow. But the best outcome is the way I feel when something (no matter how small) has been acheived and it's always a bonus if someone likes what I done.
    Oh and to be flippant shoe and/or fabric shopping always cheers. Take care. xx

  2. Thanks for the useful tips! The one that always takes me by surprise is how much difference eating a bit better and not skipping meals can make to my mood.

  3. Thank you for a great post! You give very good advice, not only for when one is low but also for when nothing really is wrong but life still seems a bit empty.
    Since moving up north, I've realised how important sunlight is to me. Being outside 30 min during daylight every day during winter makes a huge difference. I've probably needed that earlier as well, but not realising it since it didn't hit me hard eunough that I could tell the source of my February-March "lows".
    Another tip is checking your blood at the doctors. It takes me about 5 days of forgetting my iron pills before I suddenly have no energy for anything. (Done once, won't happen again).